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Mary of Magdala:
Focus on Fact, not Fiction

Campaign Calls for Women Preachers, Deacons,
Discussion of Tradition of Women Priests

With the May 19th release of The DaVinci Code movie, casual conversation will once again turn to speculation about the true role of Mary of Magdala. FutureChurch plans to use the media moment to renew our call for women's full ministerial equality in the church and focus on the facts of Mary of Magdala's leadership in the church rather than the fiction of her marital status. (If you are interested in serving as a media contact in your area email magdala@futurechurch.org).

In many ways, Dan Brown's book has done a disservice to the historical Mary of Magdala and the early women church leaders who saw themselves in apostolic succession to her. While The DaVinci Code conveys a beautiful ideal of the essential unity of male and female, it is ultimately subversive to women's full and equal leadership in the Catholic church.
It does not focus on the FACT of Mary of Magdala's leadership in proclaiming Jesus' resurrection to the male disciples, but on the FICTION of her marital status.

Prominent Female Leader, Not Jesus' Wife
There is no historical or biblical data to support Brown's contention that Mary of Magdala was married to Jesus. That early writers didn't mention their marriage and offspring for fear of Jewish persecution doesn't really hold up in light of the fact that John's gospel and most of the apocryphal literature were written after the fall of Jerusalem when there would have been nothing to fear from Jewish authorities. If Mary of Magdala was Jesus' wife, it is highly unlikely that these texts just omitted this important fact, especially since she is prominently portrayed in both as the preeminent witness to the resurrection and a female leader who, in many ways, understood Jesus' mission better than the male disciples.

This being said, if Jesus was married, it wasn't to Mary of Magdala, because then she would have been known as 'Mary the wife of Jesus,' not Mary of Magdala. This is owing to literary and social conventions in antiquity that dictated that if women were named in ancient texts (a very rare occurrence) they were nearly always named by their relationship to the patriarchal household, for example: ÒJoanna the wife of Herod's steward Chusa' (Luke 8: 1-3).

Atypically, Mary of Magdala was named according to the town she was from (not by her relationship to a man). Biblical scholars believe this indicates that she was probably a wealthy independent woman not bound to a patriarchal household.

Media, Education, Celebration and Postcard Activists Needed
All the publicity for the movie makes this a great time for those committed to an inclusive Church to share the truth of womenÕs invaluable leadership both in the past and in the present.

FutureChurch will provide resources for media outreach, education, celebration and advocacy to support reclaiming womenÕs rightful places in Church leadership. (see ad this page)

Lent, and the Easter season are also great times to sponsor a Mary of Magdala celebration as well as her July 22 feast day

We will simultaneously launch a postcard campaign calling on U.S. Bishops to appoint women preachers and petition the Vatican to ordain women deacons and reopen the conversation about women priests in light of new archaeologic and literary evidence that male Church leaders suppressed women priests because women were thought to be subordinate to men. Since we no longer hold this belief, the ChurchÕs teaching about the non-ordination of women must be revisited. The postcard idea builds on the highly successful postcard campaign leading up to the Eucharist Synod.

If you are interested in serving as a media contact, working on the postcard campaign, and/or sponsoring a celebration of St. Mary of Magdala during the Lent and the Easter season or near her feast day of July 22, please contact magdala@futurechurch.org. Resources, including a sample op ed article, a media release, postcards and a new prayer service will be sent to you to support your efforts.

Focus on FutureChurch

Winter 2006

Mary of Magdala: Focus on Fact, not Fiction

A Welcoming God

Ottawa Group Issues Powerful Call to Open Ordination

Sisters of Charity Celebrate Women Witnesses

The Liberation of the Laity book review


A Look Ahead


Archive of Past Articles



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